Cultures worldwide lend their cheese traditions
and flavors to the American palate.
By Jody Shee
Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
IN THE U.S., almost any
questionable flavor becomes acceptable
when accompanied by cheese, the
ultimate comfort ingredient. Other
countries have their comfort cheeses,
too, whether queso fresco or queso
blanco from Mexico, paneer from India,
labneh from Lebanon or halloumi from
Cyprus. Whatever the foreign type,
consumers and chefs are curious and
excited to learn more. In the most recent
“What’s Hot” chef survey from the
National Restaurant Association, ethnic
cheese is the No. 2 trend in the “other
food items/ingredients” category.
It’s helpful to grasp the culture behind the
ethnic cheese for inspiration in developing
menu applications, either authentic to the
culture or a fusion.
not have animal protein in popular form,”
In India, with its predominant Hindu
religion, cows are sacred. “The milk is
highly prized as a gift from God,” says
David Smythe, a professor at The Culinary
Institute of America (CIA), Hyde Park, N. Y.,
where he teaches about Asian cuisine.
Cheese is considered a renewable protein;
a cow does not need to be killed to
harvest it. So, “Cheese is very important
nutritionally, where otherwise, they may
Yet, in some cheese production, the
enzymes used to cause the cheese to
coagulate are rennet, from which comes
rennin. The most common source for
rennet is the lining of a cow’s stomach.
Melting cheese, made from rennet, is not
popular in India, for obvious reasons.
Another clotting method is to take the milk
(casein) proteins and the whey proteins,
add an acid, such as white vinegar, and
apply heat. Whey proteins don’t melt, and,
thus, the resulting cheese doesn’t melt.